Thinking It Through

“Send forth your light and your truth; let them guide me;” – Psalm 43:3a

Nehemiah had gone to Jerusalem to oversee rebuiding the walls around the beloved city that had been destroyed by war. While in Israel, he not only rebuilt the walls, but became a leader in their society – teaching how God wanted them to live.

One day the people brought him a problem. Many didn’t have enough to eat and were being taken advantage of by those who sold grains and food. They were going into debt, mortgaging their fields, and selling their children into slavery, just so they could eat.

There had to be a better way! I love what Nehemiah did next. He says, “I took counsel with myself” (Nehemiah 5:7). After that thinking time, he confronted the nobles and officials, demanding they follow God’s way by returning the lands they had taken, stop charging interest, and engaging in fair dealings. Surprisingly, they agreed to do as Nehemiah said.

Do you ever “seek counsel with yourself”? There’s a way to do it that I’ve found quite effective. I sit in a quiet place acknowledging God’s presence and his lordship over me. Then, I begin to talk about the problem, thinking it through out loud with him. I am “seeking counsel with myself”, but doing it in God’s presence. He and I work it through together. Often, the answer to my dilemma becomes clear as my thinking is guided by God.

Sometimes, even before we seek counsel from others, maybe we need to do what Nehemiah did. Often God will help us find an answer or a path – just between the two of us.


“God is already present in my life and all around me; prayer offers the chance to attend and respond to that presence.”  – Philip Yancey

Assumptions

“None knows the weight of another’s burden.” – George Herbert

There is so much to learn from the biblical book of Job! What I’m thinking about today is all the assumptions Job’s friends made about him. They thought he was proud, dishonest, uncompassionate, and hiding some terrible sin. They kept telling him if he’d just repent, God would stop punishing him and everything would be OK. The problem is Job can’t think of anything he’s done wrong. And what he doesn’t know is that God agrees with him. God, in talking to Satan, describes Job as totally “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8b).

So what do we learn from Job’s friends? Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t give the easy answer. If you do, you most likely will be wrong! I can’t help thinking about times when I’ve done just that. I see a mom struggling with a defiant child (needs some parenting skills) or a person who is overweight (lack of self-control) or underweight (psychological problems). Or I know of someone always short on money (bad financial decisions) or who loudly spouts his own opinions (arrogant): Negative judgments based on outward appearances and nothing more. What we don’t know is that the child has special needs, the heavy person and the thin one have significant health problems, the money is being spent to care for an elderly parent, or the loudmouth is insecure. Until we know, maybe we should withhold judgment. Why?

Because once we open ourselves to empathetic understanding, our negative view often melts away and we are able to respond with God’s wisdom and love. That kind of attitude will take down barriers and create bridges. Maybe then we can actually help!

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” – John 7:24

 

 

 

 

How’s it going?

“Help me to live awake.” Macrina Wiederkehr

How many times have you had this pseudo-conversation?

“How’s it going?”

“Great, thanks.”

Really? Are you sure it’s great? We tend to go through life without really thinking about how it’s going, don’t we? We move from one task to the next, one conversation (digital or personal) to the next, just hoping we’ll get everything done so we can get to bed at a reasonable hour and rise to do it all again tomorrow.

Maybe there’s a better way. What if we took a few minutes at the end of each day to think about the conversations, encounters, actions, reactions, joys, and sorrows of the day? Then we could move on to confessing as sin any thing we did, said, or thought, that didn’t please God. Finally, we could pick one specific thing from the day for which to thank him.

If we practice this, even on occasion, we’ll begin to learn something about ourselves and how we are using our hours and days. There may be some patterns of life we need to change. There may be relationships we need to be less invested in and others we should nurture. There may be an awareness of God leading us in a new direction in our work or our service to him.

The point is to pay attention to our lives. We don’t often have time to do that during the rush of the day. But, before we close our eyes in sleep, maybe a few minutes of reflection would enrich us and give God a chance to take us deeper into him. Let’s really know how it’s going!


. . . walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God”. – Colossians 1:10

Trusting?

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped. – Psalm 28:7a

I want to learn to trust God more and that becomes easier when I think about the many good reasons to believe he is trustworthy:

He loves me.
He’s powerful, and able to help.
His character doesn’t change.
His purposes don’t change.
He keeps his promises.
His past blessings in my life make me believe he will keep blessing me.

If all that is true, there is no reason not to trust him. Maybe what I need to do is to put that trust in to practice. If I do that, maybe I would . . .

. . . be comfortable not being in control of every situation.

. . . stand back sometimes while others make decisions without my input.

. . . be more confident and less fearful in new situations.

. . . enjoy each day for what it is, including both challenges and blessings.

. . . see life as an adventure, knowing God has a good and perfect plan he will unfold one step at a time. 

. . . be OK with not having all my “why’s” answered, believing God has reasons I don’t know of and which he may not be ready to reveal to me.

. . . live to please God alone, knowing that, in doing so, I won’t always please others. And I have found God is quite easily pleased because he sees me through eyes of love.

Are you ready to trust God more, too? Think about what he has done for you so far in your life and then let him know you are trusting him with the rest of it. He will never let you down!


Faith is a reasoning trust, a trust which reckons thoughtfully and confidently upon the trustworthiness of God.     
John R. Stott

You don’t need me?

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth.” – Acts 17:24

There’s a scene from the TV series West Wing in which the US discovers a nuclear explosion in another country. The president meets with the ambassador from that country and is told that it was not nuclear, it was an oil refinery fire. Not true. He gives the littany of evidence of their lack of security, training, and expertise in to be able to handle nuclear weapons and he offers to help. The ambassador says, “We don’t need your help.” The President leaves the room in anger, knowing she’s lying and, in not accepting expert help, is putting the world at risk.

Then I read the prophets of the Old Testament and realize the one thing that seems to make God leave the room in anger is when his people think they don’t need him. “We’ve got it covered, Lord.” And by covered, they mean they are hiding their messes, sweeping the dirt under the rug, putting false fronts on the disasters lurking, and hoping someone (other than God, of course) will step in to save the day.

The messes in our world are big. The messes in many of our lives are big, too. It may be time we admit we’re not doing a very good job of managing things ourselves. Maybe it’s time to turn to God and say, “I need you! I’ve needed you all along, but have been trying to do it on my own. Now look at this mess. Can you, would you, please help me?”

The believing man does not claim to understand. He falls to his knees and whispers, “God.” – A. W. Tozer

#trusting God

Who sees?

” . . .this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” – Isaiah 66:2b

My husband and I spent time in the presence of a man recently who impressed us. He doesn’t seem to think much about himself, only about others and how he can help them. He serves people tirelessly, whatever their need, but especially, of late, those who have been devasted by a natural disaster. He teaches from his experience, gently and quietly sharing what God has taught him. And, if he were to read this post, he’d think I was talking about someone else.

We all know people who are not like this man. Instead, they want to be the center of attention. They’re the authority on a particular topic and want everyone to know, always seeking an audience for their latest views. They like receiving accolades for their kindnesses and being recognized whenever they attend a public event.

It’s easy to see the difference, isn’t it? God sees it, too, and speaks of it this way:

“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:4

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” – 1 Peter 3:8

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – 1 Peter 5:5b

Next time you serve, or show kindness, or do good for someone in need, and no one notices, be OK with that. God knows what you do, what you say, and what is in your heart. Acting for his eyes only should be our goal. He sees!

“What is most precious in the sight of God is often least noticed by men.” – Robert Chapman

#humility #serving

Thankful, but there’s more!

“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” – Psalm 111:2

I think we should move our thankfulness up a notch this year – from being thankful to being delighted. Delight means to take pleasure in, appreciate, relish, enjoy, savor, and bask in. Doesn’t that sound like a lot more fun than just being thankful? It is!

Puppies and small children are the best at being intrigued by everything they see. Delight just seems to come naturally to them! But those of us who’ve lived awhile may have to rediscover that art. How?

Mostly by paying attention, just noticing. By not so quickly moving past the truly wonderful all around us. And if we are going to delight ourselves in the Lord as the psalmist writes, then we should give the most attention to the things God has made, done, and said.

So, here’s the list of things I am going to take time to notice, particularly in this season of thanks:

• Creation
• People
• God’s Word
• His involvement in my life

God seems always to be looking for special ways to please us – in bugs, stars, rivers, flowers, mountains, and seas. In children and friends and feisty old people. In the Bible which still gives old messages with fresh insight. In food, clothing, warm blankets – blessings beyond measure. Let’s not miss any of it! The Giver is delighted when we are!

“Those who are ‘beloved of the Lord’ must be the most happy and joyful people to be found anywhere upon the face of the earth.”  – Charles Spurgeon